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The Dead Bin

by Gary Clifton

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Chapter 9: A New Partner

Rising from the dead: Christians are solid on the idea but, from flat on one’s back, it’s hard to be optimistic.

The basement was cluttered with fast food wrappers and trash beneath the maze of low pipes and ducts. Words painted on the door — “Cold Homicide Unit” — were a dead giveaway I was in the right place.

Inside, the walls were a full library of manila folders overlooking battered gray desks, which had been junked by some management mucky-muck years before.

Maggs Wilson was sitting hunched over a desk, surrounded by piles of folders, the dim light making her ebony features even more attractive.

“Hey, Maggs,” I said. “Remember me? McCoy from narcotics. I’m your new partner, I guess. Hadn’t heard you were part of this outfit.”

“I know who you are. Who doesn’t?” Her normally smiling eyes were cold. “No real partners here. There are three of us in this toilet.” Even in surly mode, she was a looker.

I nodded. “Definitely the second team down here. Hell, I forgot, Maggs. Ran over a homeless guy in the street.”

“More like the third team. And I wasn’t drunk.”

“Not what I heard. You know how rumors are.”

“That’s your desk.” She pointed her chin at an unoccupied desk. “Washington was a good man and a friend of mine.”

“Yeah, my friend, too. A desk, huh? I been riding a desk for a month.”

“Heard you weren’t too particular what you rode as long as it was female.”

I was guilty of many things, but that was not correct. I answered with a wisecrack in kind: “Don’t rule out goats and donkeys.”

I saw a trace of a smile. Maggs was not a vindictive type. “There are the files.” She pointed. “Dig in and maybe dig yourself outta this place.”

I was reading through folders when the telephone rang. Maggs answered.

She hung up. “Gotta see a snitch. A brain-dead witness. Cold cases, dead ends are our business down here. Better come along.” She tossed me a set of car keys. “It’s the tan Ford in the remote lot, two blocks down.”

“Yes, mother.” The crack brought a full smile. I walked the block in the sweltering August heat and drove the Ford back. Maggs insisted on driving.

“You still seeing sergeant — what’s his name? — in Traffic?”

“Yeah, my divorce was final three months ago. Divorces are a bitch.”

“Wouldn’t know. Wife died. Breast cancer.”

“Sorry. I heard, just forgot in the middle of my own problems.”

“I understand. That’s easy to do.”

“Hey,” she looked over. “You and Washington came out and talked to us at a narcotics seminar. You looked hung-over and Washington did all the talking.”

“Remember the seminar, remember you, plea to the hangover charge is guilty.” I grinned.

Maggs drove along MLK Boulevard, past the Cotton Bowl, turned into a side street, then pulled to the curb. She gestured to a convenience store, the Reddi Mart, amidst vacant storefronts, boarded windows and debris. A drunk was slumped on the sidewalk, far enough into his slumber not to feel the heat of intense sunlight beating down on him.

“Used to work this district on patrol,” I said. “Highest crime rate in Texas. Business here needs more security than the Drovers’ and Merchants’ Bank.”

“Pimp named Isaac Terrell shot and killed a competing pimp, James Thurston — street name ‘Buttercup’ — on the front steps of this place last year,” she said. “Case is now closed. Jackoff clerk knows more than he’s telling.”

“Reddi Mart...? Sounds familiar. Maybe me ’n Milton were lookin’ at this place.”

“This guy got paid to burn the owner’s rent house, year or so ago.” She looked across at me. “Arson squad couldn’t prove it. Know anything about arson?”

“Yeah.” I stepped out into the heat. “I’ve seen a fire or two.”

Proceed to Chapter 10...

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Clifton

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